The Monday ransack: Dance United and more…

The official “seasons” of the big arts groups have pretty much ended (not quite: Center Stage, for example, still has two playing at the Armory), but that doesn’t mean any slackening on my art calendar. Oh no. In fact, maybe there’s more than ever. So, even though I may have taken a little breather this weekend, that meant I missed a bunch of things that I would liked to have seen and heard. And that will be case all summer, whether I’m siesta-ing or not.

I did make it to Dance United, though, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s end-of-the-season benefit, at tidy 90 minutes of dancing (actually, part of that was clapping) by ballet stars from around the country and thanks to the Dutch Ballet, the world. I’m not going to “review” it, because that wasn’t the spirit of the thing, which was more small bites than full meal. (Martha Ullman West had a few observations about it all in The Oregonian this morning, if you want to have a look.) I do have a few thoughts, though.

1. I’d watch Wendy Whelan, the New York City Ballet prima, walk across the street. She’s so light and supple, she’d probably just drift across. She and Adrian Danchig-Waring danced the grand pas de deux from Balanchine’s Chaconne, so sweetly and gracefully that the dance’s devilish little rhythms seemed natural as breathing. Or crossing the street.

2. I also loved Dana Genshaft and Garen Scribner’s account of Christopher Wheeldon’s pas de deux from Ghosts, so sinuous and sexy, which is how I’ve found the San Francisco Ballet in other encounters. I wish ballet companies still toured extensively, so we could see an evening of SF Ballet pieces. Maybe an exchange could be worked out?

3. And speaking of sexy, the Joffrey Ballet has built its reputation on sexy, as longtime OBT fans know from founding artistic director James Canfield. The Joffrey’s Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili gave Yuri Possokhov’s Bells a fabulously athletic and sensuous reading, that had the fans in my section wishing there was more to come.

4. We could go on in this vein, but I’ll close with the highlight of the evening (even with the presence of Whelan, which is close to taking darshan for a dance fan): The Artur Sultanov-Alison Roper pas de deux from Wheeldon’s There Where She Loved, which also happened to be the last performance by Sultanov, who is retiring. The Sutlanov/Roper combination has been a primary pleasure of OBT the last few years, and we will miss their duos. But Roper remains, and one thing that was apparent during the evening? Roper as a dance artist fits just fine in Whelan or anyone else’s company.

Finally, what West said: I hope the evening was successful financially for OBT.

A few more things

Brett Campbell reviews CDs by a couple of indie, musician-led and managed orchestras. We don’t know what the orchestra of the future will look like or sound like, do we?

I have a great affection for Monica Drake’s novel Clown Girl, which you should read immediately if you haven’t already, so I was particularly primed to read her Soul Pancake interview on Sunday morning.

The Writers’ Kitchen: What do you miss or not miss about being 5 years old?

Monica Drake: When I was five I was a plump, day dreaming kid. I loved my six-toed cat more than anything in the world and I begged for ballet classes that never materialized. I don’t miss that lack of autonomy, though I do miss my good cat. Mostly, if I miss anything about back then, it might be a connection to the natural world–a way of being outside without questioning it, enthralled by the details of birds, insects, grass. I miss the way the air could fill with the scent of a particular and unnamed plant and that scent would become a whole moment in time…

My grandmother, who played piano for her church, suffered through Alzheimer’s many years ago, and I used to think that we should pipe her favorite church music into her room, where she lay practically motionless for years. Now, I’m thinking I was right way back then:

One of my very favorite performances of the year is by Chavez Ravine in Black Pearl Sings! The Skanner interviews her.

Lisa Loving, The Skanner: I’ve heard many people gossiping in hallways about what a great show this is—and people are raving about your music. Where does your voice come from in this plot where your character is potentially being completely ripped off—you’re pouring your art into a place that may not be worthy of it? How do you pull this off onstage?

Chavez Ravine: I try to hear the voices of the people from that era, and I have to channel them into the character. For them I think it was about expression, and just needing to express – and whoever’s listening in on that expression just happens to be listening in. It feels like it’s something that just has to happen.

I remember as a girl we had a summer house in Memphis, and there was this guy who walked around with a guitar because that’s just what he did; I mean we call them street musicians now. But in the South that’s just the way it was. Or you had a guy on Beale Street who’s sitting there plucking his guitar just for the sake of doing so. Not necessarily wanting anything for it, or wanting you to drop a dollar – it’s nice that you do, but he’s just doing it because this is what he has to do to express himself. That’s where it comes from.

And I think in Pearl’s case that when she’s singing she’s singing from a pace of comfort, of self expression, and I think she knows how to use it in a couple of instances to gain access to this woman that she wants to gain access to. So she’s smart in that regard – she knows what people are interested in, she knows how not to be overused.

I think that’s a difference between this person and this character, versus some other musicians. They didn’t know when they were being used, or they just trusted someone too much. And I don’t put this woman in the position of over-trusting: she gives to get and she gets to give.

I think about the problems of journalism a lot, and this exchange between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell gets at a lot of them.

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